MRC meeting – Resident battles SHQ; new Lafontaine committee; Fibre Pontiac scrutiny


Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – On August 19, the 18 MRC Pontiac mayors gathered for their first in-person meeting since March at the Campbell’s Bay RA Hall.
Public comments/requests
Connie Belland spoke on behalf of her father Basil, who is currently residing at
a local manor, about a constant “run-around” from the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ), which provides grants to people with disabilities and low income to modify their homes.
As a stroke survivor and wheelchair user, Basil received an SHQ grant to install a new ramp at his home and make his bathroom wheelchair accessible. After the ramp was built, a neighbour complained the ramp was too close to their property, and the municipal building inspector determined the SHQ didn’t get a building permit. Work was stopped, resulting in conflicts with the contractor who still hasn’t been paid, and left Basil without an accessible bathroom. Connie said her father had no choice but to relocate and that his mental health has drastically declined because of the stress.
The family has decided to finish the work themselves but asked that the MRC, who has an SHQ agent working in its office who refuses to deal with the family, pay the contractor.
Mayor Maurice Beauregard (Campbell’s Bay) brought forward two resolutions that were adopted: launch an inquiry into SHQ projects in the region in the last two years to verify that permits were obtained; and demand the SHQ meet with the MRC to address Basil’s file and resolve it quickly.
John Petty, organizer of the annual Pontiac Terry Fox Run/Walk, encouraged mayors to get involved and promote this year’s event. From August 22 to September 30, residents are encouraged to create a personal challenge in any form of exercise, register either individually or as a team at www.terryfox.
org/run under PONTIAC, and raise funds for the cause. Petty expained: “The goal is to match Terry’s run total of 5,373 km. Participants record individually, but the region’s total is tabulated.”
Guillaume Lavoie-Harvey, coordinator of the local Ski at School program, explained that Canadian Ski Marathon funded the first two years of the program and since 2018 government grants and Desjardins have covered the costs. “Our challenge now is to maintain the program in the long-term without using the same donors,” he said, asking every municipality to contribute. The issue will be brought back to each council meeting.
Lynne Lavery, on behalf of les Ami(es) du Cycloparc PPJ and GreenPPJVerte, asked what the maintenance plan for the PPJ is this year and why unused funds in last year’s budget weren’t carried over. Kim Lesage, MRC engineer, said the plan will be adopted at the next meeting and the unused funds were put in general revenue.
Conflict of interest?
The council of mayors voted on members of the new MRC Lafontaine National Park committee after the former committee was dissolved because of Mayor Serge Newberry (Calumet)’s conflict of interest as owner of two properties in the area. The MRC reported the issue to the Commission municipale du Québec (CMQ). Alice Pieschke (pro-mayor of Calumet Island), Beauregard, Mayor Alain Gagnon (Bryson), and Mayor Donald Gagnon (Chichester) are the members; Newberry claimed the CMQ decided no conflict of interest existed and he requested a seat. The vote on Newberry’s inclusion was deferred until he provides official documentation from the CMQ.
According to Isabelle Rivoal, CMQ spokesperson, Newberry’s file isn’t closed. “Following [our] investigation, it was not deemed opportune to continue this investigation and cite this elected official for conflict of interest. A file at the Commission is never closed. At any time, the investigation may be resumed. New elements could cause the Commission to re-evaluate the current situation,” she explained.
Expenditures approved
The mayors adopted the project priorities for $127,000 through the Programme d’aménagement durable des forêts (PADF), but decided to hold off on awarding Fibre Pontiac, the organization exploring the Biomass project, $50,000 until the business meets with the mayors. Since 2013, $768,493 has been spent through Fibre Pontiac. “I have a responsibility for accountability; I scrutinize the budget and want the mayors to always be aware of what we’re spending. We want to ensure that when we spend money, there’s a good return and it’s well used. A lot of money has been spent and we want to know specifically what the plans are and the timelines,” said Warden Jane Toller.
Five culverts, mostly in the St-Patrice area of the TNO, will be replaced for a total of $225,000. The government will cover 90% and the remaining $24,500 will be taken from the TNO budget. The MRC will also partner with ZEC Pontiac to repair a culvert in its territory and cover 50% of the $8,000 total.
The Culture pour tous program is providing a maximum of $10,000 to fund seven arts and culture activities in the MRC during Culture Month from September 25 to October 25. These include drive-in movies in a number of municipalities, activities for seniors, performing arts workshops through the Maison des Jeunes, and an art event by the Pontiac Artists’ Association.
The license bureau is now open from Tuesday to Friday by appointment. The MRC building is still closed to the public, but appointments can be made to see an employee.
The annual auction for properties with unpaid taxes will be held November 12.
A temporary employee will be hired to inspect buildings under the region’s Fire Safety Cover Plan. With three MRC Pontiac fire departments certified to conduct water rescues, the mayors will create a concerted response plan for the entire MRC.
Members of the committee working with Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) concerning the Pontiac Community Hospital’s obstetrics unit will meet the week of August 24 to get an update from CISSSO about the status of the unit, which is supposed to reopen in September. Toller, who has said before that the reopening will likely be delayed, said there should be an official announcement soon and the MRC will be working to develop incentive packages to attract hospital workers.